For teams like the Carolina Panthers and Chicago Bears, two of the NFL’s five most disappointing teams in the 2023 NFL season, this year has featured the unfortunate mix of low expectations and bad performance.
When you put those together, you get teams that are not only struggling to win games but are also often failing to be competitive in games. It’s rough enough to have a record well below .500 overall. Still, it’s even more challenging to routinely fail to cover the spread in individual games, which is a sign of even more severe underperformance.
Then there are teams like the New York Giants, who made the playoffs last season in Brian Daboll’s first year running the show but have crashed back down to earth in 2023. They looked pretty good in the preseason NFL team rankings with a decent offense, great defense, and stellar coaching.
However, the season has been a disaster from day one, and they’re already on QB3. Similar sentiments can be said about the New England Patriots, who have flatlined behind Mac Jones and may force Bill Belichick into an early retirement. The Arizona Cardinals and Denver Broncos can be thrown into the disappointment mix as well, maybe for different reasons.
Let’s run through the contenders for the biggest disappointments in the NFL with an eye toward both records against the spread and how they are doing compared to their expected win totals. If you placed futures on any of these teams, then things are not looking too good.
It’s a little difficult to consider a team that is pretty openly trying to tank a “disappointment” per se, but when you only have one win by the middle of November, it’s a fair label. Kyler Murray has yet to make his season debut, Josh Dobbs was traded after playing pretty well, and rookie Clayton Tune was brutal in his first NFL start last week (a 27-0 loss to the Browns).
It has been very clear that Arizona viewed this season as a pathway to potential No. 1 pick Caleb Williams, which has made the on-field product a secondary concern. The NFL betting lines have picked up on that, too.
Ah, the Bears. Things seemed to be trending up for Chicago after Justin Fields had a nice close to his 2022 season and GM Ryan Poles swung a big trade for top wide receiver D.J. Moore in the offseason. The Vegas scores and odds weren’t convinced, though, only expecting 5.5 wins for Chicago. It turns out the low expectations were more accurate as the Bears have struggled mightily on offense as Fields has battled injuries.
They have also had tons of midseason coaching staff turnover and now face questions about whether Fields should be the franchise quarterback or if they should try again in the draft (where the Bears control their own first round pick and that of the similarly disappointing Carolina Panthers).
Combine all of those factors, and you get a team underperforming both straight-up and against-the-spread. It’s also tough to win behind a makeshift offensive line and a defense that gives up over 25 points a game.
Mac Jones may not be the guy. After there was some thought that the former first round pick could be the post-Brady answer under center for the Patriots, he has been one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL. As a result, New England has limped to a 2-7 record and has been, by far, the worst team in the AFC East.
The Patriots also “boast” the second-worst ATS record in football. They’re 31st in scoring offense (15 points per game) and, uncharacteristically, are 26th in scoring defense (25.3 points per NFL game). Bill Belichick has resisted the calls from fans and media to bench Jones for backup Bailey Zappe.
Still, even a quarterback change won’t mask how New England is pretty devoid of offensive playmakers and doesn’t have the dominant defense of years past. Then again, when you’re one of the NFL’s five most disappointing teams, change needs to be made at some point.
It’s tough to get more disappointing than the current situation the Giants are in. This past offseason, they gave Daniel Jones a massive extension following their surprising NFL playoff run and Wild Card Round win over the Minnesota Vikings. Their coach also won NFL Coach of the Year, another sure sign that good things were ahead for Big Blue, right?
Wrong. So, so wrong. Nearly everything about this Giants’ season has been a disaster. Now their starting quarterback is undrafted rookie Tommy DeVito, who New York’s offensive staff does not have much faith in.
It’s a tough situation for a rookie signal-caller made worse by the Giants’ subpar pass-catching group and injury bug — Darren Waller is on the shelf with a hamstring issue. No wonder New York is 2-6-1 against the spread and has scored a shockingly low 11.2 points per game, easily the worst in the NFL. That’s a roughly 50% decline from their 2022 production.
Now, for our top choice of the NFL’s five most disappointing teams: the Carolina Panthers. Where to begin with Carolina. They have the worst record in the NFL and don’t have their first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft after trading it for the pick used on Bryce Young, who has struggled in his rookie season while No. 1 pick C.J. Stroud has shined for the Houston Texans.
Frank Reich’s first NFL season in charge of the Panthers wasn’t expected to be great, but most people didn’t think it would be this bad. Young is not a bust already, by any means, but some more signs of growth and development were expected by this point in the season, particularly with how much of Carolina’s future was mortgaged in order to get him.
They also have a bottom-six defense to go with a bottom-four offense. The against-the-spread record is surprisingly good, but that’s primarily due to the Panthers mostly being big underdogs.
Honorable Mention: Denver Broncos (2-5-1 ATS); Buffalo Bills (3-6 ATS); New Orleans Saints (2-6-1 ATS); Atlanta Falcons (2-7 ATS)
Buffalo, New Orleans, and Atlanta are all — somehow — in the playoff picture despite such mediocre showings against the spread. Denver has managed to rebound from an abysmal start, but that doesn’t change how bad that offense has looked, for the most part, under Sean Payton.
Bet on these NFL teams at your own peril because, on any given day, they could lose games most inexplicably — look at the Falcons losing to Josh Dobbs days after he was traded to the Vikings, for example.